Boys will be ....
I learned a lesson about boys today. My daughter,
Molly, usually only has girls over to play. But
last night one of the parents of Sean, a boy in
Molly's class, asked if I could watch Sean after
school for a few hours. Molly had no objection, so
I picked up both of them from school and brought
them home. As soon as I parked the car they dashed
off into the house.
I was eager to help make sure they got off to a
good start, so after I unloaded several bags of
groceries I went to look for them. They were in
Molly's room. Sean was sitting on the bed while
Molly was getting out her new fashion doll. This is
the doll Molly bought with her own money after
saving her allowance for a month. On the way home
from the store she had ripped open the cellophane
box squealing, "I can't believe she's mine!" Then,
stroking the doll's cheek she had said dreamily, "I
touched her!" and "I touched her again!"
I doubted this was Sean's idea of exciting after
school play. I know Sean is quite the little league
star. To help him out I advised my daughter,
"Molly, do you really think Sean wants to play with
Barbies?" She looked at him. He looked at me. "Why
don't you two go out and play in the fort?" I
suggested. And off they went.
They had been playing together two hours when
Jane, Sean's mother, arrived.
"How did they do?" she asked. Clearly she was as
excited as me about our children playing with the
opposite gender for a change.
"They've been doing great," I said proudly.
"They're out in the yard."
"Did they play dolls?" she asked. I wondered why
she asked that. Did she think all girls ever do is
play dolls. It seemed a rather sexist
"No." I said. "I think they have been throwing
walnuts up at the apple tree, trying to knock
apples down." "They didn't play dolls?" she asked
again, now seeming rather disappointed.
"Well Molly wanted to, but I got Sean out of it
by diverting them outside," I said with a sort of
wink in my voice. "But that's why Sean wanted to
come over here." she explained. "At school Molly
told him all about the new doll she got, and he's
been wanting to see it. He never gets to play with
dolls at his other friends' houses."
I winced with shame. I had thought she was the
sexist one. But it was I who had automatically
assumed that a boy of nine would have no interest
in dolls. And with that assumption I had made it
unsafe for him to explore the interest he did have.
"I guess I blew it," I confessed. "They were about
to play dolls, but I interrupted them. I didn't
think Sean would want to."
Jane was upset. "There are so few places where
Sean's softer, nurturing side is welcome." she
implored. "He can play like that with me, but I
never see him that way with anyone else. I thought
maybe he could play like that with Molly."
I flashed on how Sean had looked up at me when I
walked into Molly's room. I hadn't realized that
the expression on his face was really a question.
As boy to man, Sean had been asking, "Is it
I called the kids in, desperate to reverse my
mistake. I suggested that we play dolls for about
ten minutes before Sean and his Mom have to leave.
That idea crashed on the runway before takeoff.
Sean knew his mother and I had talked. He knew what
I was trying to do. And he was not about to be
toyed with. If he does try to play with dolls
again, it will be far away from me.
But I pray that he will try.
© 2008 Tim
Other Father Issues,
* * *
Parents are the bones on which children sharpen
their teeth. - Peter Ustinov
Hartnett, MFT is father to Molly at their home in
Santa Cruz, CA. Tim also works part time as a
writer, psychotherapist and men's group leader. If
you have any feedback, or would like to receive the
monthly column, "Daddyman Speaks" by Tim Hartnett
regularly via email, (free and confidential) send
your name and email address to E-Mail
Tim Hartnett, 911 Center St. Suite "C", Santa Cruz,
CA 95060, 831.464.2922 voice & fax.
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